Ahead of th elong trip North to take on Newcastle this weekend, TEB had a chat with our pal Jake Jackman to get his view on their season so far, the game and much more.
Q. Looking back, how do you rank last season?
Under Mike Ashley, staying up has to be considered a success and we managed to do that with relative comfort after a poor start. During the second half of the season, there were a number of excellent performances and it seemed like we were finally building something. The front three of Almiron, Rondon and Perez were devastating to watch as a trio, while the emergence of Sean Longstaff was pleasing.
The victory over Manchester City and the battling defeat against Liverpool showed we could go up against the best in the league and compete. In particular, the Liverpool game, as we were playing on the front foot and not the defensive team we usually are. Ending the season with a big win over Fulham showed the platform that had been built with Rafa as manager, but that was pulled out from underneath us this summer. There were high points, but looking back has to be done with sadness knowing what followed in the summer.
Q. What were your hopes for the season and how does that compare with how the season has gone so far?
I had virtually no hope for the season going into the campaign. The summer was a sequence of blows starting with Rafa’s departure, the non-stop takeover talk that materialised to nothing and the appointment of Steve Bruce. He represents a huge step down from Rafa and relegation seemed inevitable. We sold Perez, didn’t sign Rondon and gambled on an inexperienced front line. The summer was a poor one and we ended it in a weaker state to which we began. However, we have started the season well, picking up some big results and have established a healthy gap on the bottom three. It’s been a positive start.
Q. Steve Bruce was not a popular choice but have the fans started to take to him?
It’s too soon to say that fans have taken to him, but I feel the fan base are finally moving on from Rafa. It was like a bad break up, but no person is bigger than the club and we need to move on. Bruce knew the difficulty of his task when taking the job, but he has fared better than expected. After experimenting with a more attacking style, he has gone back to the way Rafa played and it has worked well. He seems popular with the players and he talks a good game in the press. As a person, he’s very likable, but he will always be a few losses away from being ridiculed due to how his entire managerial career has been perceived.
Q. How was the summer transfer window for the club? Were all needs addressed?
We were very slow to do any business and we still need further reinforcements in January. Allan Saint-Maximin has been an excellent signing, perfect for the way we play, as he creates havoc on the counter and adds much needed attacking threat. Joelinton was a record signing, but it hasn’t clicked for him yet. Due to the style we play, it’s difficult to lead the line for us as chances are at a premium. Rondon was the master, but Joelinton is certainly one that needs time. Further attacking signings are needed to add goals to our attack. Our first choice front three have two goals between them. This isn’t good enough.
Q. The introduction of VAR this season has not gone to plan so far – what is your view of the system and how it is being used?
I never wanted VAR and this season has shown why. There are too many close calls and the lack of consistency is making a joke of the system. However, it is here to stay now and we need to get used to it. The biggest thing they need to do is to update the laws to bring them in line with VAR. The handball and offside laws are two that need this in particular. The linemen also need to be more consistent in the use of their flag. Jonjo Shelvey scored an absolutely ridiculous goal, after being flagged incorrectly. The Sheff United players stopped upon seeing the flag and it gave us an easy second goal. Although we benefited, it was a very sad goal to see as a football fan.
Q. One to watch for Newcastle this season?
Allan Saint-Maximin is the one to watch in the Newcastle team. He is very quick, direct and one of the best dribblers in the league. The Frenchman adds much needed excitement to a team that is very functional and boring to watch. He is injured for most of the Christmas period, but he’s worth putting yourself through one of our matches when he is on the pitch.
Q. If you could pick one Palace player to sign, who would it be and why?
This isn’t a particularly difficult one. Andros Townsend. It’s realistic and he played his best football during his short time in black and white. He displayed a consistency that he has lacked everywhere else and nearly kept us up on his own. We need more attacking quality and he would bring that.
Q. Which Newcastle player do Palace need to keep an eye on in the game?
Andy Carroll. He is slowly starting to get back to some form, with two assists in his last three matches. Although his body can’t be relied upon, he is clearly buzzing to be back at his home town club and a goal is coming. It will be a great story when one finally goes in for him and in the modern game, defenders aren’t used to the physical battle that he offers any more. If he is fit, he will cause problems for defenders.
Q. Perhaps you could share your views on what you expect from Palace this season?
Palace are set for another good season under Hodgson. You remind me of a more advanced Newcastle team, with a lot of parallels between players. We both have a good foreign goalkeeper, British cores to our defence, a goal-scoring Dutch left back, solid operators in midfield and some excitement in attack. Although you have a bit more quality. You are built on a strong defence, with a similar struggle to score goals. Mid table seems a good bet.
Q. Your prediction?
We haven’t lost at home since the opening day, which may surprise some. In that time, Wolves, Manchester City and Manchester United have visited Tyneside. Injuries to Almiron, ASM and Shelvey hurt us against Burnley. Hopefully, a couple of them will be back this weekend. There won’t be many goals, but I’ll tip us to win it with a Dwight Gayle goal from the bench. He hasn’t made an impact yet this season, but this would be the kind of narrative that the Premier League so often throws up. Newcastle 1-0. Gayle.